JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE GATES at Summerhall, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman, 21.10.13.
3 stars ***
IT’S LONG, IT’S MESSY, and its narrative is often all over the place; but all the same, Glasgay! audiences are in for a treat, when Andrew Cruickshank and Rachel Jury’s vivid new musical reaches the city’s Classic Grand on Wednesday. Presented by a pro-am cast of 25 in fabulous vintage costume – including the former MSP Rosie Kane, in fine cabaret form – the story is set around the legendary Chelsea night-club The Gateways. The Gates, as it was known, was an underground lesbian meeting-place that enjoyed its heyday in the glamorous but repressive 1950’s – the decade which provides the backdrop both for Jury’s romantic story of a doomed love-affair between a young Gates regular and a previously straight gangster’s moll, and for Cruickshank’s astonishing score, which features almost 20 new songs, many of them with a gorgeous, doomed, jazz-blues intonation that perfectly fits the period.
The Gates is, to put it gently, far from perfect. The central love-story – between Seweryna Aga Dudzinska’s stunning Jo, and Jennifer Dempster’s gorgeous Judy – is predictable to a fault. The show is oddly structured, poorly paced, and much too long; like any team of musical writers, Jury and Cruickshank now need to take a deep breath, and cut at least four or five songs. At its core, though, this show has a great setting, an important tale to tell, half-a-dozen superb songs, exciting crowd scenes, and a handful of performances with real star quality; I can think of several world-beating musicals that have started life with less, and gone on to global success.